Climate Action Pledge urges philanthropists to double funding by 2021

A campaign is calling for US$1bn of additional money from philanthropists for climate action – including those who have previously avoided climate projects.

The Climate Action Pledge, first conceived in 2017 but launched last week, is a project from Global Friends Philanthropy, a nonprofit, and the Tse Foundation, both based in Hong Kong.

The pledge aims to meet its target by 2021 – which, if successful, would mean doubling current levels of climate philanthropy. 

The climate crisis offers some of the biggest opportunities for philanthropic investment - Naina Subberwal Batra

“Climate is not yet a high priority for our sector and we want to help change that,” Global Friends Philanthropy’s Nancy Smith told Pioneers Post. Just 2% of global philanthropic giving now goes to climate-related work – although in 2018, 29 foundations committed to spending $4bn over the following five years.

The pledge will not collect money itself, but will track commitments of $100,000 and above and will count all money from philanthropic sources (including foundations, family offices or  individuals), regardless of whether these are gifts, grants or investments.



A bigger tent

The pledge also hopes to make it easier for newcomers to start investing in climate action, by publishing a directory of opportunities of $100,000 and above that could have a significant impact.

Smith, introducing the project at last week’s Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN) annual conference, said many foundations and individuals faced “perceived barriers” to getting involved related to a lack of capacity or of knowledge, as well as “feeling that the scale of the problem is so vast that the relatively modest means that some of these offices or foundations have to dispose wouldn’t have a serious impact”.

The pledge does not specify which specific area of climate action funders should choose, and wants above all to create “a bigger tent”.

“It really is about signalling to the field, about getting more money out there, about encouraging new conversations,” said Smith. “It’s an easy way to start a conversation with a donor that hasn’t been involved to date with climate philanthropy.”


Leadership lacking?

Speaking in an AVPN session on partnerships, Smith also suggested philanthropic organisations are not wielding their influence enough.

“The voice of the sector is extremely powerful – I’m not sure that that’s a power that we recognise as much as maybe we should or could. I would love to see, particularly in the climate space, the sector coming together and using its voice to say: this is on our agenda, this needs to be on the agenda for all of us.” 

The voice of philanthropy is extremely powerful – I’m not sure that that’s a power that we recognise as much as we should

In a statement, Ivan Tse, chair of the Tse Foundation – which funds the climate pledge work – and founder of Global Friends Philanthropy, said Covid-19 had made the pledge all the more timely. “The virus... reminds us that climate change is an ‘all of us, everywhere’ challenge,” he said. “We hope that the philanthropic and climate investment community will step up its game as well. I have no doubt that collective action can have vital impact.”

Naina Subberwal Batra, CEO and chair of AVPN, said the climate crisis offered “some of the biggest opportunities for philanthropic investment”, and that the Climate Action Pledge, alongside AVPN’s own efforts to boost greater investment in climate mitigation among its 600+ members, would “draw much more attention and funding to this urgent global problem”.

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Header image: a solar engineering trainer at the Barefoot College, India (credit: UN Women/Gaganjit Singh, 2012)